The Centenary of the First Dáil

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2019 by telescoper

As I mentioned at the weekend, today marks the centenary of the historic first meeting of the Dáil Éireann, at the Mansion House in Dublin on (Tuesday) 21st January 1919. The picture above shows the 27 Teachtaí Dála (TDs) present. The event is being commemorated this afternoon.

I’m summarizing the events surrounding the First Dáil largely because I didn’t learn anything about this at School. Despite Ireland being such a close neighbour, Ireland’s history is only covered in cursory fashion in the British education system.

The background to the First Dáil is provided by the General Election which took place in November 1918 and which led to a landslide victory for Sinn Féin who won 73 seats, and turned the electoral map of Ireland very green, though Unionists held 22 seats in Ulster.

In accordance with its policy of abstentionism, the Sinn Féin MPs refused to take their seats in Westminster and instead decided to form a provisional government in Ireland. In fact 35 of the successful candidates for the General Election were actually in prison, mostly because of their roles in the 1916 Easter Rising and the Ulster Unionists refused to participate, so the First Dáil comprised only 27 members as seen in the picture. It was chaired by Sean T. O’Kelly; Cathal Brugha was elected Speaker (Ceann Comhairle).

As part of this meeting, the adoption and the ritual of ‘the Turning of the Seal’ establishing the Sovereignty of the Irish Republic was begun. The First Dáil published The Declaration of Irish Independence.

It also approved a Democratic Programme, based on the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, and read and adopted a Message to the Free Nations of the World in Irish, English and French:

On the same day as the first meeting of the Dáil (though the timing appears not to have been deliberate), two members of Royal Irish Constabulary were shot dead by volunteers of the Irish Republication Army in an ambush at Soloheadbeg, Co Tipperary. The IRA squad made off with explosives and detonators intended for use in mining. This is generally regarded as the first incident in the Irish War of Independence. The war largely consisted of a guerrilla campaign by the IRA countered by increasingly vicious reprisals by British forces, especially the infamous Black and Tans who quickly became notorious for their brutality and indiscipline.

Following the outbreak of the War of Independence, the British Government decided to suppress the Dáil, and in September 1919 it was prohibited. The Dáil continued to meet in secret, however, and Ministers carried out their duties as best they could.

The War of Independence lasted until the summer of 1921, when it was ended by a truce and the negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. That, in turn, triggered another cycle of violence with the breakout of the Irish Civil War in 1922 between pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty forces and the eventual partition of Ireland into the independent Republic and Northern Ireland which remained part of the United Kingdom.

Advertisements

Bloody Wolf Moon

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on January 20, 2019 by telescoper

In the early hours of the tomorrow morning (Monday 21st January 2019), people in Ireland and the United Kingdom will be able to see a Total Lunar Eclipse. It will in fact be visible across a large part of the Earth’s surface, from Asia to North America. Around these parts the time when the Moon is fully within the shadow of the Earth is about 4.40am until 5.40am (Irish Time). The Moon will be well over the horizon during totality.

For a combination of reasons this eclipse is being called a Super Blood Wolf Moon. The `Super’ is because the Full Moon will be close to its perigee (and will therefore look a bit bigger than usual). The `Blood’ is because the Moon will turn red during the eclipse, the blue component of light reflected from the Moon’s surface having been scattered by the Earth’s atmosphere. The `Wolf’ is because the first Full Moon of the New Year is, according to some traditions, called a `Wolf Moon’, as it is associated with baying wolves. Other names for first Full Moon of the year include: Ice Moon, Snow Moon, and the Moon after Yule.

Having looked at the Weather forecast for Ireland, however, it seems that instead of a Super Blood Wolf Moon we’re more likely to get a Bloody Clouds No Moon…

Azed Christmas `Play-tent’ Puzzle (No. 2428)

Posted in Crosswords with tags , on January 20, 2019 by telescoper

I haven’t done a blog post about crosswords for a while so I thought I’d post a quickie about the Christmas Azed Puzzle Competition (No. 2428), the results of which were announced this week. One of the few things I really enjoy about Christmas is that the newspapers have special crossword puzzles that stop me from getting bored with the whole thing. I had saved up a batch of crosswords and gradually worked my way through them during the holiday. I left the Azed puzzle until last because, as you can see from the image above (or from the PDF here) it looks rather complicated. In fact the rubric was so long the puzzle extended across two pages in print edition of the paper. I therefore thought it was fearsome and needed to build up courage to tackle it.

The title `Play-tent’ is a merger of two types of puzzle: `Letters Latent’ (in which solvers have to omit one letter wherever it occurs in the solution to the clue before entering it in the grid) and `Playfair’ which is based on a particular type of cypher. I blogged about the latter type of puzzle here. In this ingenious combination, the letters omitted from the appropriate clues together make up the code phrase required to construct the Playfair cypher grid.

It turned out not to be as hard as it looked, however. I got lucky with the Letters Latent part in that the first four letters I found had to be removed were F, L, K and S. Taking into account the hint in the rubric that the code-phrase consisted of three words of a total of 13 letters from a `familiar seasonal verse’ , I guessed FLOCKS BY NIGHT, which is thirteen letters long and fits the requirement for a Playfair code phrase that no letters are repeated. It was straightforward to check this by looking at the checked lights for the bold-faced clues, the solutions to which were to be entered in encrypted form. Most of these clues were not to difficult to solve for the unencrypted answer (e.g. 18 across is clearly ABELIA, a hidden-word clue). Thus convinced that my guess was right I proceeded to solve the rest of the puzzle. The completed grid, together with the Playfair grid, is shown here:

It took me about 2 hours to solve this completely, which is quite a bit longer than for a `Plain’ Azed puzzle, but it wasn’t anywhere near as hard as I anticipated. People sometimes ask me how to go about solving cryptic crosswords and I have to say that there isn’t a single method: it’s a mixture of deduction, induction, elimination and guesswork.Leibniz was certainly right when he said that “an ingenious conjecture greatly shortens the road”. If you want to learn how to crack these puzzles, I think the only way is by doing lots of them. In that respect they’re a lot like Physics problems!

But solving the puzzle is not all you have to do for the Azed Competition puzzles. You have to supply a clue for a word as well. The rubric here mentions the word three words before the code phrase, i.e. SHEPHERDS. Although I was quite pleased with my clue, I only got a HC in the competition. You can find the prize-winning clues together with comments by Azed here.

For the record, my clue was:

What’s hot on record? You’ll find pieces written about that in guides!

This parses as H(hot)+EP(record) in SHERDS (word for fragments). The definition here is `guides’, which is a synonym for shepherds (treated as a part of the verb form).

I’ve said before on this blog that I’m definitely better at solving puzzles than setting them, which probably also explains why it takes me so long to compose exam questions!

Anyway, it was an enjoyable puzzle and I look forward to doing the latest Azed crossword later this evening.

Update: today’s Azed Crossword (No. 2432) was quite friendly. I managed to complete it in about half an hour.

Domhnall Ua Buachalla and the First Dáil

Posted in History, Maynooth on January 19, 2019 by telescoper

This Monday, 21st January 2019, is the centenary of a momentous day in Irish history. On 21st January 1919 the first Dáil Éireann met and issued a Declaration of Irish Independence and so the War of Irish Independence began..

This post from Maynooth Library describes fascinating archived material relating to Domhnall Ua Bramhall, who was elected to the First Dáil for Kildare North (which includes Maynooth).

I’ll probably do a brief post on Monday to mark the centenary.

MU Library Treasures

Ciara Joyce, Archivist

May God send in every generation men who
live only for the Ideal of Ireland A Nation’ James Mallon B. Co. III Batt.
I.R.A. Hairdresser “To the boy of
Frongoch” with E. D’Valera Easter Week 22/12/16 Frongoch’.

                                                            MU/PP26/2/1/7 Autograph by James Mallon

Members of the first Dáil 1919

On the 21st of January 1919, the first meeting of Dáil Éireann took place in the Mansion House, Dublin. Elected in the 1918 General Election, the members of parliament refused to take up their seats in Westminster, and instead established the Dáil as a first step in achieving the Irish Republic.

Prominent elected members included Michael Collins,Constance Markievicz, Éamon de Valera, Cathal Brugha, W.T. Cosgrave, Eoin MacNeill and Arthur Griffith. A number of T.Ds, including de Valera and Markievicz, were serving sentences in British prisons at the time and…

View original post 893 more words

Abstract Whiteboard No. 2

Posted in Art, Biographical on January 18, 2019 by telescoper

Before going home for the weekend I thought I’d share this work (300cm × 120cm, marker on whiteboard) by a relatively unknown Anglo-Irish artist currently based in the Maynooth area who wishes to remain anonymous.

Despite the somewhat stochastic form of the composition and the unusual choice of medium I think this work speaks for itself, but I’d just like to comment* that, with regard to the issue of content, the disjunctive perturbation of the spatial relationships resonates within the distinctive formal juxtapositions. Moreover, the aura of the figurative-narrative line-space matrix threatens to penetrate a participation in the critical dialogue of the 90s. Note also that the iconicity of the purity of line brings within the realm of discourse the remarkable and unconventional handling of light. As a final remark I’ll point out that the presence of a bottle of whiteboard cleaner to the bottom right of the work symbolizes the ephemeral nature of art and in so doing causes the viewer to reflect on the transience of human existence.

*These notes may or may not have been generated with the help of an online Instant Art Critique Phrase Generator.

Maynooth Library Cat Update

Posted in Education, Maynooth with tags on January 18, 2019 by telescoper

As I went for a quick coffee break this morning, I passed the local feline celebrity known as Maynooth Library Cat. That reminded me that quite a few people have asked me how said moggy is getting on. Well, here’s a picture I took this morning:

Since we’re in the middle of the examination period, the library is very busy with students using the space in there to prepare. I think the cat is doing a sterling job as a stress release mechanism as he is very friendly and quite vocal. He likes to be stroked and petted, but isn’t keen on being picked up. In return for affection he is regularly plied with food, as this morning. I actually carry some Dreamies in my bag in case he fancies a snack when I go past, but he was busy scoffing a whole portion of food when I took the picture above so I didn’t give him anything this morning. All in all, I think he’s got a very cushy number going.

Some kind soul supplied him with a box, which is placed near his favourite lookout position.

It’s pretty cold these days so I’m sure he appreciates having somewhere warm to take his naps, but he also finds other cosy places around the campus.

There’s a rumour going around that Maynooth Library Cat’s real name is Trevor. I’m not sure that is really the case, and it is possible I was told it as a joke. These days the Irish tend (not unreasonably) to assume that English people are gullible fools who will believe anything…

Self Assessments

Posted in Biographical, Education, Finance, Maynooth with tags , , on January 17, 2019 by telescoper

My first batch of examination marking having been completed satisfactorily and my next paper not taking place until the weekend (Saturday morning, to be precise), I naively hoped that I could devote myself to research for a few days this week as I am behind schedule in completing a couple of papers. Unfortunately this has not been as straightforward as I’d hoped. I’ve spent all of today doing various administrative things (expenses claims, examination reports, and a part of the Department’s Quality Review Self-Assessment document which is due in near the end of the month.

In case you are unfamiliar with such things, a Quality Review is an exercise that takes place from time to time for every Department or Administrative Unit in the University (and indeed for every university in Ireland). For the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University, the last one took place in 2009). The process begins with the aforementioned Self-Assessment document which basically lays out what the Department is trying to do, the processes by which it uses to do it, reflects on the effectiveness of those processes, and outlines ideas for how they can be improved. All the staff in the Department have been engaged in writing bits of this document, which is now gradually coming into shape.I’ve had a relatively light involvement in this because I haven’t been here for very long, but it has consumed quite a lot of staff effort.

When complete, the Self Assessment report is sent to a range of people both inside and outside the University and there is then a visitation during which the panel talks to staff and students and has a look around the Department. We’re expecting our `inspection’ to take place in March. After that the panel gives feedback to the Department in a report. The panel’s comments are made publicly available, as is appropriate for a publicly-funded body. The report emerging from the last Quality Review of the Department of Mathematical Physics (as it was then called ) can be found here (pdf). It’s all quite a lot of work – the latest Departmental meeting devoted to this yesterday lasted three and a half hours, and we’ve had several meetings like that! fortunately, it  will all be finished by next week. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.

 

Talking of Self Assessment, I realized last night with a panic that I hadn’t yet done my UK income tax return for 2017/18, also due in by the end of January. I spent this lunchtime getting all the bits of paper in order, and completed the task online fairly quickly as I’ve done it many times before. It turns out that yet again HMRC owes me a substantial refund. They haven’t handled my income tax properly since I left Sussex in 2016 as a matter of fact. Despite repeated attempts to get them to apply the rules correctly they have basically taxed all my income at source at the higher rate (40%) only to pay it back when I submitted my return. Fortunately, I am now domiciled in Ireland so won’t have to deal with HMRC much again.

Anyway, I should complete most of the outstanding administrative stuff this evening and if I do that I can clear a day for research, or at least writing up papers…